‘Stonewall’ legend lives on in stories, relics
Local residents marveled at another brilliant military maneuver and Confederate victory at Chancellorsville during the Civil War, 150 years ago.
When news of the Union defeat in eastern Virginia reached Winchester on May 10, 1863, the populace was overjoyed at the prowess of the general they had adopted as their own, Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson.
By 1863, Jackson was a near-legend in the southern states. He had outmaneuvered larger Union armies in the Shenandoah Valley, stood “like a stone wall” at the first Battle of Manassas, become the right hand of Gen. Robert E. Lee and driven the hated Yankees out of Winchester several times.
So, when further word from the battlefield brought the news that Jackson had been wounded, elation in Winchester turned to concern.
Mary Greenhow Lee, one of the most prolific diarists of the Civil War, reported on the mood in the city: “Gen. Lee’s dispatch saddened our rejoicing for it says our general, the indomitable Stonewall, is severely wounded.
On May 11, she added to her diary: “No news from the Rappahannock, except for various rumors as to the extent of [Gen.] Jackson’s injury.”
Jackson was one of the most beloved heroes of the Confederacy when he died at age 38 on May 10 as a result of wounds he suffered in the battle.
Born in Clarksburg, in what is now West Virginia, he rose to prominence in Virginia’s west, and his Shenandoah Valley Campaign of 1862 is still studied as a masterpiece of warfare, successfully pitting small forces against much larger ones.
So when Lee confronted a much larger force under Union Gen. Thomas Hooker at Chancellorsville on May 2, 1863, Jackson recommended one of his audacious plans, and the Confederate commander agreed.
He divided his forces and sent Jackson on a flanking movement that surprised and routed the Union army and drove it back across the Rappahannock River.
The “glorious news” of the victory, as Mary Lee called it, was celebrated in Winchester, despite the fact that the town was again caught in the clutches of the Union army.
But the celebration would quickly turn to sorrow.
After the victory, Jackson, scouting in front of the Confederate lines with staff members, was silhouetted by a full moon as he returned.
Thinking they were Union cavalry, jittery North Carolina troops opened fire on the horsemen and Jackson was wounded.
The volley set off answering fire from the Union side and Jackson was caught between the two lines.
Staff members caught his frantic horse and moved him to safety, but doctors had to amputate Jackson’s left arm at the shoulder.
Jackson’s wife Mary Anna — who had visited him before the battle to introduce him to his new daughter — was on her way back to her wartime home in North Carolina when she heard the news and rushed to his side.
Jackson — who had contracted pneumonia — died eight days later with his wife and young daughter and his personal physician and friend Dr. Hunter Holmes McGuire of Winchester at his side.
Jackson’s biographer James I. Robertson Jr. notes that the end of the Confederacy began on May 10, 1863.
“With his death, the southern Confederacy began to die as well,” Robertson wrote.
Two days after Jackson’s death, the news reached Winchester.
“All remembrances of the day are obliterated,” Mary Lee confided in her diary. “The Richmond papers contain the obituary of Gen. Jackson. I do not believe it even yet. No, the bare idea has given me a more hopeless feeling than any other event in the war.”
Union Gen. Robert Milroy held Winchester and tightly controlled its Confederate sympathizers. None of the people who had grown to know Jackson — especially during the winter of 1862, which he spent with his wife in the city — were able to contact his widow at the time of his death.
It wasn’t until June 13 that Confederate Gen. Richard Ewell drove Milroy out of Winchester, clearing the way for Lee to march to Gettysburg.
Fanny Graham, wife of the local Presbyterian minister, immediately wrote to the woman she had sheltered, with her famous husband, the previous year.
Jackson had asked James Robert Graham and his wife to care for Mary Anna while he was away from Winchester and then stayed the winter with them when he returned.
“You know, my darling,” Fanny Graham wrote, “how we loved your noble husband, how we idolized him, how we, of the Valley, felt as if he was our peculiar property, our deliverer, and you can see some idea of how every heart bleeds at his loss.”
Winchester holds Jackson’s memory dear.
Many of the places he frequented still stand and the house on North Braddock Street he used as his headquarters during the winter of 1862 is now a museum honoring him.
“It’s the busiest of the three museums we operate,” said Brian Daly, a volunteer for the Winchester-Frederick County Historical Society. The group also directs the George Washington’s Office Museum at Cork and Braddock streets, and Abram’s Delight, a colonial-era home and mill built by early settlers.
Daly, a history buff, said he is often surprsed at the large number of visitors from overseas. “We had people from Switzerland and Finland last week.
“We have plenty of artifacts,” he added, including Jackson’s desk, his chair, a prayer table and the Episcopal prayer book his sister gave him, even through he was of the Presbyterian faith.
And one of the Stonewall Jackson Medallions.
Overseas admiration for Jackson began before the war ended, if one of two stories about the origin of the Stonewall Jackson Medallion is true.
The medal features the head of Jackson on one side, a likeness that The New York Times — in a Jan. 29, 1894, article about the finding of the medallions — reported “is very poor.”
According to a story in The E-Sylum, the online publication of the Numismatic Bibliomania Society, Armand Auguste Caque, engraver to the Imperial Cabinet of Napoleon III, designed the piece.
Since Caque had never met Jackson, it is probably not surprising that the likeness isn’t more precise.
On the reverse side, the medallion lists the battles the Stonewall Brigade — Jackson’s famous “foot cavalry” — fought under his command.
They are: Kernstown, Front Royal, Middletown, Winchester, Strasburg, Harrisonburg, Port Republic, Mechanicsville, Cold Harbor, White Oak Swamp, Malvern Hill, Cedar Mountain and Manassas, along with Bull Run, Sudley, Harpers Ferry, Shepardstown, Fredericksburg, the Wilderness, Antietam, Martinsburg and Chantilly.
The image, slightly bigger than a silver dollar, was definitely cast in Paris, but two differing reports describe the medal’s origins.
The Times story credits the officers of Jackson’s command with commissioning the medal after his death, to give to the members of the Stonewall Brigade.
However, a story in The Winchester Evening Star from Dec. 14, 1915, describing the distribution of the medals in Berryville, credits the idea to a descendant of the Marquis de Lafayette.
The newspaper story states that the French leader came to the United States in the winter of 1862-83 and visited the Union Army of the Potomac before crossing the river to meet the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia.
There, the story reports, he “became a great admirer of Gen. Jackson and his troopers, showing especial admiration for the Stonewall Brigade. After returning to France, he had 5,000 bronze medallions made at his own expense.”
The 1894 Times story describes how the medals came across the Atlantic Ocean on a blockade runner.
Col. C.A.L. Lamar slipped the medallions into the port of Wilmington, N.C., and then transported them to a warehouse in Savannah, Ga., during the “closing scenes” of the Civil War. He was apparently killed a short time later.
The medallions were stashed away and were not found until 1894, when the warehouse was demolished.
The medallions, supposedly meant for members of the Stonewall Brigade, were reportedly given to the Georgia United Daughters of the Confederacy to sell as a fundraiser to help surviving veterans.
Moving forward another 21 years, the Winchester story explains how several of those medallions came to the Winchester area.
Mrs. I. D. Barton of New York — “who is a Virginian,” the story states — managed to obtain several of them.
She sent the medallions to Winchester to be given to the few surviving members of the Stonewall Brigade in December 1915.
“She has for some years been hunting up the members of the old Brigade and presenting them with medals,” the article stated.
The Stonewall Brigade formed at Harpers Ferry on April 27, 1861.
Jackson, then a colonel, took troops from the 2nd, 4th, 5th, 27th and 33rd Virginia Infantry regiments and the Rockbridge Artillery Battery.
The unit earned its nickname at the First Battle of Manassas, when Jackson and his men were described as “standing like a stone wall” by CSA Gen. Bernard Bee of South Carolina, who told his shaken troops to “Rally behind the Virginians.”
These men marched with Stonewall Jackson up and down the Shenandoah Valley and fought in the many battles listed on the medallion.
In 1864, a year after Jackson’s death, the brigade also came to an end. At Spotsylvania Court House, it was on the left flank of the “Mule Shoe” salient, in the part of the line known as the “Bloody Angle.”
All but 200 of the men fighting there were killed, wounded or among the 6,000 captured following the vicious hand-to-hand fighting.
That battle was the official end of the brigade. Survivors were moved to other units.
The Clarke County Historical Association has one of the medallions.
It was given to a man who never saw it.
In 1861, Thomas Daniel Gold was a 16-year-old school boy, the son of Thomas and Lucy Gold. He was also a member of a militia unit, The Clarke County Rifles. On April 17, Virginia Gov. John Letcher ordered the militia to Harpers Ferry to seize the federal armory.
His daughter Mary Washington Gold wrote down the story of that day, as she heard it from father and grandmother.
Gold’s parents, who lived at Ellwood, off Senseny Road — near the Berryville Pike — were visiting the Kerfoots at Llewellyn when Henry Kerfoot, also 16, burst in from school to grab his militia uniform. He delivered the news that the militia was marching, which probably meant war.
Knowing their son “Tom Dan” was also bound to go, the Golds went home, but missed him there. They drove to Berryville, and caught up with the militia where it was halted at what is now Green Hill Cemetery.
The militia captain saw the buggy and announced, “Here comes Mr. Gold to beg Tommy off.”
But, Mary Gold said, he was wrong. Instead, the father gave his son all the money he had in his pockets for the trip.
Young Tom Dan served in the 2nd Virginia Infantry as part of the Stonewall Brigade. He was captured at the Battle of Kernstown and sent to a Union prison, Fort Delaware, for three months, until he was exchanged.
He rejoined the brigade and was wounded at Second Manassas in August 1862. After he recovered, he was back in uniform in time to be captured again in the Mule Shoe. He was sent first to prison in Point Lookout, Md., and later transferred to one in Elmira, N.Y. He was exchanged again in February 1864.
After the war, he married Sarah Helm Barnett of Soldier’s Rest. They had nine children; four survived to adulthood.
He served his county as a schools superintendent and a supervisor and his state in the General Assembly, but the accomplishment he was most proud of was his “History of Clarke County,” published in 1914.
The Clarke Courier described him in its obituary as “one of the most widely known and universally loved citizens of Clarke County.”
On the day he died, the lost medallions were finally presented to the surviving Stonewall Brigade members of Clarke County.
“Miss Lucy Russell” of Winchester was credited with actually getting the medals to the handful of Stonewall veterans in the county.
Mary Washington Gold kept her father’s Stonewall Jackson medallion until her death in 1953.
— Contact Val Van Meter at firstname.lastname@example.org